Tech SoftwareThings You Should Know About Speaker Cables

Things You Should Know About Speaker Cables

The age-old argument over cable quality has raged amongst audiophiles since the beginning. Some say that the quality of the speaker cables is as crucial as the quality of the Hi-Fi components to which they are connected. Meanwhile, others save money by purchasing low-cost cables and argue they make no difference in sound quality.

So, rather than sticking our noses between these two opposing camps and risking being drawn into the current war, let us avoid the heated debate and provide an overview of speaker cables.

What Exactly Are Speaker Cables?

Speaker cables are the wire that connects speakers to amplifier sources. It has three important electrical properties: inductance, capacitance, and resistance. By far, the most significant quality to consider is resistance. Low-resistance wire permits more power from the source to reach the speaker coil, resulting in increased power and sound.

How Does Resistance Influence Performance?

In general, resistance influences a speaker’s performance when it exceeds 5% of the speaker’s impedance. Resistance is influenced by two factors: wire length and cross-sectional area. The lower the resistance, the shorter the wire. The goal is to keep wire lengths as quick as feasible while keeping your speakers as far apart as possible. It is also critical that the wire lengths to each speaker be the same for them to have similar impedance values.

The cross-sectional area of the wire refers to the wire’s thickness or gauge. The less resistance there is, the thicker the wire or, the lower the gauge. The resistance is therefore affected by a combination of speaker gauge, length, and impedance.

Wire Material

Because of its cheap cost and resistance, copper is the most often used material for speaker cables. However, since copper oxidises, it must be adequately protected and insulated. When pure copper is exposed to air, it reacts to form copper oxide, which coats the exposed surface and provides a barrier between the wire and the speaker, potentially weakening connections. Silver is somewhat less resistive than copper, so a narrower gauge will still provide reduced resistance; nevertheless, silver is costly, so a thicker copper wire will still be cheaper to purchase.

On the other hand, gold does not oxidise and may therefore be used for open terminations; nevertheless, since it has a greater resistance than copper or silver, it is seldom used as speaker wire. Like other metals, the purer the wire used, the greater the cost (per metre). There are many degrees of purity available for cables, and whether or not this substantially improves the audio is a matter of personal choice that you must determine for yourself.

Terminations

Specific terminations are supplied to use at the ends of your speaker lines to facilitate connections to speakers or sources. The most common alternatives are the amusingly called banana and spade plugs. Speaker cables with banana plugs  main advantages are that they allow for faster and easier connections because they plug into the speaker terminals; furthermore, when properly installed, they ensure a solid and reliable electrical connection while reducing the risk of shorting due to stray filaments of wire grabbing adjacent binding posts.

If you want to change/modify/move components of your system frequently, it may be a good idea to employ terminations merely for convenience. If you plan to plug your speakers in once and listen to them for years, you’re probably good with standard wire binding.

What Do You Prefer, Single Wire or Bi-wire?

The last choice with speaker wire is whether or not to bi-wire. If your speakers only have single wire connections, then the option is obvious – single connections it is! Bi-wiring is possible if your speakers have two sets of speaker connectors.

A supposed advantage of bi-wiring is that it may generate a more expansive sound stage and higher levels of detail. In contrast, others claim that single wiring provides a more musically cohesive sound. Again, this is one for the purists to debate, but remember that equal-quality bi-wiring is nearly always more costly than single-wire arrangements.

Do Certain Cables Have a Better Sound Than Others?

Some cable companies charge hundreds of dollars for speaker cables and other audio connections. The issue is whether they are worth the additional money.

There is no scientific proof that employing gold or other more expensive materials would produce more excellent sound from your speakers. If you want to improve your sound, forget about cables and focus on another aspect of your setup.

However, superior materials, such as shielding and materials less prone to corrosion, are helpful and cost more. Although more expensive speaker cables have certain advantages, simple, thin speaker wires should suffice for most residential applications.

In Summary

Speaker cables claim a variety of electrical attributes, such as increased insulation and improved purification of oxidising chemicals to enhance sound quality. However, the impact of these qualities on the outcome is debatable; the essential issue is that your wire gauge is appropriate for the impedance of your speakers and the length of your cable.

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